No, I've not seen the video of the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff
. Right now, all I can do is jot down a few odd facts which may or may not prove significant.
1. Unlike Foley, whose reports focused on Assad, Sotloff had angered the rebels
as well as the government:
"One thing he had told me that was again rather chilling is that he was concerned that he had been on some kind of a list, and this had been around the time that ISIS had been showing up and taking over checkpoints that had been manned before by the rebels. And he thought he had angered some of the rebels, he didn’t know which ones, by taking footage of a hospital in Aleppo that had been bombed, and he had been very concerned about this. But he still went back.”
2. His work had previously placed him in both Yemen and Benghazi. The Benghazi connection will probably give rise to conspiracy theories.
3. Foley's family were told (falsely) that he had been captured by Assad's forces. At this writing, we have no indication that the Sotloff family was told a similar story.
4. Sotloff was abducted a year ago. We are told that his family maintained a news blackout about the kidnapping.
5. One of his last tweets
, on July 31, 2013, read: "Hannibal Lecter wannabe Abu Sakkar killed by the Syrian regime today." This refers to the man who infamously ate the heart of a Syrian soldier. Sakkar
later said that he did not actually eat the organ, which (he told the BBC) was actually a piece of lung. He also said that the soldier whose heart or lung he had removed had committed atrocities and thus deserved such treatment.
The important takeaway here is that Sakkar belonged to the Farouq Brigades of the Free Syrian Army
. We've been repeatedly told that the FSA represents the "moderates" within the rebellion. I guess this means that the FSA engages in a moderate
amount of cannibalism.
6. The video of Sotloff's death was first identified by a strange private intelligence group called SITE
, which tracks both jiahdists and white supremacists. You can't have access to most SITE materials without first becoming a member, although their blog
is available to the public. SITE, located in Bethesda, Maryland, is largely the work of one Rita Katz:
Katz remains the executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group. Her bio says she is fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, having been born in Iraq and educated in Tel Aviv. She has worked as a government consultant on terrorist operations and is the author of the 2003 book, “Terrorist Hunter: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman Who Went Undercover To Infiltrate the Radical Islamic Groups Operating in North America.”
She was the subject of this New Yorker piece
. Her father was condemned by Saddam Hussein as an Israeli spy.
There is a whole lot more to say about Katz, but this isn't the time for it.
7. Conspiracy-oriented Reddit commenters
are again claiming that the video shows signs of fraudulence:
As somebody pointed out here, this video is zoomed further out than the foley video and has all of the same fishy things about it on top of that.
*No ISIS flag and/or badges, branding anywhere. *Editing w\ possible green screen for all we know. *No blood w\ sawing motion, etc etc
SIS video DOES NOT show beheading of Steven Sotloff. FTFY OP.
This video is the same as the first. Head laying on the corpse at the end after a fadeout when the 'murder' begins.
If anything, the ISIS video shows a beheaded Steven Sotloff, not the act of beheading.
I'm a little confused at the moment because I managed to find the video on two websites, and in the version I saw both times; -Steven talks to the camera. -Captor talks to the camera, points a knife at the camera. -Immediate cut to captor holding a third prisoner, not even including a picture like the first video.
Did I watch an edited version, or is this the actual video, somehow lacking even more than the Foley one?
Edit: To the two people that replied to me, that was different than the one I saw. So...um..."thank you," in the loosest sense of the phrase hahaha
I just watched the fullest version I could find here:
I'm not sure if that's the 'full video,' but the only one I could find that didn't have crappy newsreaders talking over stills of it.
Surprise! It doesn't show anything. AGAIN. Please show this link to as many as you can and download a copy of the video before it is pulled (like the JF one).
Others are going to have to make a judgment here. I will say this: Eventually, even the mainstream media began to question the Foley video, in which Sotloff made an appearance. Thus, questioning this latest ISIS production is not just a game for the ultra-paranoid.
comment is worth quoting at some length:
Pretty well taken care of. Recently shaved. Not out in the sun often. Not at all scared to die? Not a flinch when that dude grabs his head... Not a flinch. Not a flinch when the dude is standing next to him, so well posed and framed with a silver scary looking knife in the frame. Look at that framing! That's local furniture commercial, videographer couldn't make it in film school framing! Watch some of their TV!! Try and find something produced like this! This is so obviously American produced.
Not to mention, the gear. I'm a filmmaker, and I've filmed throughout the Middle East for different projects, and I've never come across a local company shooting with DSLRS, which I would argue this is shot on. I often contract people over there and they're still shooting on old dv cams and such.
Wireless mics? I was shocked when I turned it on and saw they were both mic'd up. A set of those mics runs about $800 and is a real pain to hang the reciever off of the camera. Not really what id be thinking about when about to brutally murder someone.
It's not that the production level is crazy on this thing... It's that there's a production level at all. That's a lot of gear (possibly even a slider for the dead body shot) for a beheading video... Also, the first beheadings videos kept me awake for about a week. This does not instill the same 'horror' in me.
Actually, there are much cheaper Chinese-made wireless mics available via Ebay. It's also possible that they used lav mics wired into portable mp3 recorders, which is a good, inexpensive way to record sound. That said, I have not seen any lav mics in the still shots posted online, so I can't say whether the people on screen were, in fact, miked.
All of the jihadist videos I've seen -- and to be fair, I've glanced at only a few -- looked as if they were made with ultra-cheap cameras shooting in a 4:3 aspect ratio. If a green screen did
play a role in the production of the Sotloff video, it would be necessary to use something better than an old DV camera. Even a DSLR isn't really good enough for quality work. (I won't bore you by talking about color fringing in 4:2:0 color space
But I should not be spitballing about this video, since I have no wish to see it.